DURBAN - A post to a Facebook group with an appeal to help farmers and their workers in Aberdeen, Eastern Cape, has resulted in truckloads of donations.
The initiative, led by three individuals "wanting to help", resulted in food, supplies and fodder being donated to farms in the area.
Anton Bence, who initiated the project, said he became aware of how dry the area was when he travelled through Aberdeen for a weekend away with his wife.
“We spoke to the farmer where we stayed and he told us that he’d already sold off his sheep and that he planned to sell off his cattle the following week as there was nothing for them to eat on the farm and that fodder had become very expensive,” says Bence.
The conversation stayed with him after returning to Despatch, but it was on the evening of Guy Fawkes that he decided to act. Bence posted a comment on his town’s "Inwoners van Despatch" Facebook group.
“I started to think about the money being spent on fireworks and how, just 200km away, there were farmers on their knees financially. Not having a clue where to start, I mentioned on the group that the members of the group could make a difference by donating food, and asked if anyone wanted to help me start the project.”
Within days, Bence was connected to various willing parties.
“Leon de Koning, a farmer from the Gamtoos district, and Werner du Preez, immediately offered their assistance and began networking to collect food parcels in the Jeffrey’s Bay area. The local Dutch Reformed church gave over 300 food parcels alone and farmers in the Gamtoos and Patensie area also donated tonnes of fodder, fresh vegetables and food," said Bence.
“Leon also connected me with Bertus Griebenouw from Despatch, who arranged for churches in the town to become collection points. He also helped communicate the project to their congregations.”
Bence, a regional manager at Pick n Pay, then arranged for local Pick n Pay stores to set up collection trolleys and customers were invited to donate non-perishable groceries in the Moffet Hyper, Uitenhage Penford and Newton Park stores.
In less than three weeks, a full truckload of donations had been collected. This included non-perishable food, pet food, toiletries and back to school stationery.
“We were also able to secure four trucks loaded with fodder for the animals on the farms thanks to a R10 000 donation from Pick n Pay and various donations from farmers in the Gamtoos/Hankey/Langkloof area,” said Bence.
He said the support and requests to help from the community was overwhelming.
“We also had our transport sponsored by Grain Carriers, Conradie Transport and another truck owner who wants to remain anonymous. This meant all our donations could be used to help the farmers.”
The donations were off-loaded by 50 volunteers at Aberdeen shooting range where boxes were filled with various goods and distributed to over 120 families. Fifty farmers in the area each received six bales of fodder and a bag of maize.
Bence said that due to the support, they are planning to arrange another donation for March 2020.